Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As
If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our page linking in one place all the Q&As.
How many peaks is it possible to connect together in one day? We want to hike all of them when we arrive in September. Thank you. – Bonnie Jean
Dear Bonnie Jean,
That’s an ambitious goal to do what we like to call the Grand Tour of Acadia Peaks – hope you’re aiming for it as part of the free year-long 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek that we’re sponsoring, because you deserve an Acadia Centennial Trek Medal for it!
If you’re in good physical shape, get an early start each day, and have the right equipment, that Acadia National Park hiking goal should be achievable, especially if you make use of the Island Explorer bus that runs through Columbus Day.
Some park visitors and area residents have been fanatic enough to try to hike all Acadia peaks in a 24-hour period. But hopefully you have more than just 1 day to attempt the feat. It’s more fun to hike at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and sounds along the way, rather than rushing to the top to bag another summit by a certain time.
There are 26 peaks of Acadia on Mount Desert Island, according to a National Park Service list that used to be prominently featured on the park Web site. Two of them don’t have maintained trails to the top of them.
Assuming you don’t want to bushwhack and risk getting lost up McFarland and Youngs Mountains, and assuming you don’t plan on heading over to Schoodic or Isle au Haut for the Acadia peaks there, here are some suggested ways to connect Mount Desert Island peaks, estimated mileage, and Island Explorer routes to get you back to the start, or on to the next destination.
North or south is easier than east or west up Acadia peaks
Generally speaking, heading along Acadia’s north-south ridgelines is easier than attempting steep clambers up east or west faces. If you attempt to link Acadia peaks along 2 separate ridgelines via the shortest distance, however, there may be no way around some cliff climbing. The suggested routes here take the easier way, assume you don’t want to spend more than a few hours hiking in a day, and go from east to west across Mount Desert Island (but could be done in any order).
You can refer to our “Hiking Acadia National Park” book for more details, including maps and difficulty ratings, as well as any good topographic map. Check out the park’s new interactive maps as well. One map version, Park Tiles 3, shows trail names, but doesn’t provide as much topographic detail, or even show ME 3, as another map version on the park site (ESRI) does.
Be sure to carry an Island Explorer map with you, available for free at local businesses, and note that the Brown Mountain bus line stops August 31, and other bus line schedules are cut back after then. Since you’re visiting in September, you’ll want to be sure not to miss the last bus for the return, or consider spotting a car. Even if a stop isn’t officially listed on the Island Explorer map, the bus driver can make a drop-off or pick-up at request, as long as it is safe to do so.
Thanks for asking this question, Bonnie Jean! It’s making us think it might be time to re-hike Acadia’s peaks as part of our year-long Acadia Centennial Trek – especially now that you’ve given us a reason to come up with these routes for the Grand Tour of Acadia Peaks.
CAUTION: These are moderate to difficult hikes, both because of their steepness and their length. Anyone attempting these routes should be in good physical shape and have proper footwear (hiking boots or other sturdy rubber-soled shoes); a detailed map or hiking book, compass or GPS; a daypack with water, food, sunscreen and extra jacket; headlamp or flashlight, and a copy of the Island Explorer map if planning to make use of the bus. Weather can change suddenly. Be prepared to turn around if conditions warrant. Heed the park’s cautions about hiking, and know your and your group’s limits. See this blog’s disclaimer in the sidebar.
7 days and nearly 50 miles to do the Grand Tour of Acadia Peaks
Gorham to Beehive to Champlain to Huguenot Head – Just over 5 miles one-way, this hike takes you over 525-foot Gorham, over the Beehive, up 1,058-foot Champlain and down Huguenot Head. If you’re not afraid of heights you can scale the Beehive via iron rungs up its steep southern face. You can also take a slightly longer, more gradual route, by heading up the backside of the Beehive from the mountain pond known as the Bowl.
To get to the start, you can take the Loop Road or Sand Beach Island Explorer bus line to the Gorham Mountain trailhead. While that’s not an official bus stop, the driver can let you off if it is safe to do so.
After you’ve hiked Gorham, the Beehive, Champlain and Huguenot Head, descend along Beachcroft Path, cross ME 3 and the outlet of the Tarn. Then turn right on a 0.3-mile spur trail north to Sieur de Monts, where you can catch the Sand Beach line of the Island Explorer back to the Bar Harbor Village Green.
Dorr to Cadillac – A rugged loop up the 1st and 3rd highest peaks of Acadia, with Kebo Mountain as an added bonus, this route is about 6 miles. We don’t know why Kebo, at 407 feet, didn’t make the park’s list of 26 peaks, but Flying Mountain at 284 feet did.
You can take the Jordan Pond or Loop Road Island Explorer bus lines to the North Ridge stop. Head east on the Kebo Brook Trail for about 1 mile, past the junction with the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, to the intersection with the Kebo Mountain Trail. (We’re not big fans of the Cadillac North Ridge Trail since sections parallel the Cadillac Mountain Road, within earshot of motor vehicles.)
Turn right, or south, on the Kebo Mountain Trail and head up and over 407-foot Kebo Mountain. Continue straight on the trail as it becomes the Dorr North Ridge Trail, climbing to the 1,270-foot Dorr summit, just past a 4-way intersection.
Retrace your steps to the 4-way intersection and turn left, or west, down to the gorge between Dorr and Cadillac, and then steeply up the park’s highest peak at 1,530 feet. The easiest way down would be via the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, even if it goes by the mountain road, and then left, or west, on the Kebo Brook Trail, back to the North Ridge stop for the Island Explorer.
But if you want to take a slightly longer, more remote trail on the return, head back down to the gorge between Cadillac and Dorr, and take a left to head north on the recently rehabilitated Gorge Path. Take Gorge Path all the way to the Kebo Brook Trail. Turn left, or west, and head back to the North Ridge stop for the Island Explorer, to take the Jordan Pond bus back to the Bar Harbor Village Green.
Day to Triad to Pemetic to South Bubble to North Bubble – About 5.8 miles 1-way, including a bit of retracing of steps up and down Day Mountain, before then heading north over the Triad and Pemetic. If you want to add on Conners Nubble, even if it isn’t included in a park list of the 26 peaks, that would make it an 8.2-mile 1-way hike.
Take the Loop Road line to Wildwood Stables and walk the carriage road to the Day Mountain Trail, on the south side of the Triad-Day Bridge. Head south to 583-foot Day Mountain, then retrace your steps and cross back over the Triad-Day Bridge to pick up the Triad Trail. Go up and over the 698-foot Triad, then up the Pemetic East Cliff Trail to 1,248-foot Pemetic.
Descend Pemetic via the Pemetic Northwest Trail, and cross the Park Loop Road to the Bubble Rock parking lot.
Be extra careful going down the Pemetic Northwest Trail, since it goes down a steep boulder field. Even with a couple of handy log railings, the route is tricky. If this sounds like too difficult a route, an easier option is to descend via the Pemetic North Ridge Trail, which ends at Bubble Pond. From there, you can take the Island Explorer south to the Bubble Rock parking lot, to add on the Bubbles.
Take Bubbles Divide to South Bubble (be sure to check out Bubble Rock, just east of the summit). Retrace your steps down South Bubble, take a right on the Bubbles Divide, then a quick left on the Bubbles Trail to 872-foot North Bubble.
Retrace your steps down North Bubble, and turn left (east) on Bubbles Divide to return to the Bubble Rock parking lot. Catch the Island Explorer Loop Road or Jordan Pond line back to the Bar Harbor Village Green.
If you want to add on the less-visited Conners Nubble, even if it doesn’t make the park’s list of 26 peaks, rather than retracing your steps down North Bubble, continue north along the ridge to that lower summit.
Descend Conners Nubble and take a sharp right (if you get to a carriage road, you missed the sharp right, so retrace your steps for a short distance). Head south on the Eagle Lake Trail. Turn right, or south, onto Jordan Pond Carry, to head back toward the Bubble Rock parking lot. Catch the Island Explorer Loop Road or Jordan Pond line back to the Bar Harbor Village Green.
Penobscot to Cedar Swamp to Sargent – This 6-mile out-and-back leads from Jordan Pond House all the way up to the 2nd highest mountain in Acadia.
From Jordan Pond House, take the Spring Trail to the Penobscot Mountain Trail. Head north to the Penobscot summit, then head northwest toward Sargent South Ridge Trail.
Turn left, or south, on the Sargent South Ridge Trail to add on Cedar Swamp, then retrace your steps and head north to Sargent. Return via Penobscot Mountain and Spring Trails back to Jordan Pond House.
Because this is an out-and-back trip, the hiking distance is the same whether you take the Island Explorer or not to Jordan Pond House. But be aware that the bus ride would be a lot longer to the start if you take the Loop Road line, since it goes around the 1-way Park Loop Road first. The quicker bus ride to the start would be on the Jordan Pond line.
Parkman to Gilmore to Bald to Norumbega – About a 7-mile trip if you do the more gradual loop around Norumbega on the return rather than retracing your steps back down the short, steep Goat Trail. The Brown Mountain line isn’t running after August 31, so driving to the trailhead is the only option.
Take ME 198 south past the Parkman Mountain parking lot, to the Norumbega parking lot on your right. Cross ME 198 to pick up the Hadlock Brook Trail, and take a quick left to head north on the Parkman Mountain Trail. Cross the carriage road 3 times and continue to the 941-foot Parkman summit.
From Parkman, head east to summit 1,036-foot Gilmore Peak. Retrace your steps over Parkman and bear left to head to 974-foot Bald Peak. Head down the Bald Peak Trail, crossing the carriage road twice. Turn right on the Hadlock Brook Trail to head back to ME 198 and the Norumbega parking lot.
Climb the short, steep Goat Trail to 852-feet Norumbega. We’d recommend taking the ridge south for a more gradual, although longer, descent, rather than going back down the Goat Trail.
Upon reaching the shore of Lower Hadlock Pond, bear left, or northeast, following the shoreline. Once you’re beyond the pond, take a left on a connector trail back to the Norumbega parking lot.
Acadia to Flying to St. Sauveur – The first hike west of Somes Sound, this 6-mile loop takes you over the only east-west ridge in Acadia and features an extra summit, Valley Peak, which is not on the park list of 26.
The trail starts across from the Acadia Mountain parking lot on ME 102. Take the spur trail that parallels the road north to the Island Explorer bus stop, then turn right on the old fire road, then left onto the Acadia Mountain Trail along the only east-west ridge in the park.
Upon reaching the 681-foot Acadia summit, you’ll get views up and down Somes Sound, and south to Flying Mountain, the next destination. Descend steeply toward the sound, past a spur to the Man o’ War Brook, then left onto the Valley Cove Trail (often closed during peregrine falcon nesting season, but open by mid-August). There are some tricky rock slabs on this trail, so be careful.
Pass an old fire road coming in on the right and bear left on the Flying Mountain Trail along Somes Sound, to bag the lowest peak of the 26, at 284 feet. Descend steeply on the other side, turn right at the parking lot onto an old fire road, then take a quick left up the Valley Peak Trail.
Upon reaching the limited views of Valley Peak, two trails diverge; they both head to 679-foot St. Sauveur Mountain. The spur to the right (east) has better views. Pass the wooded summit of St. Sauveur, and continue northwest on the St. Sauveur Trail back to the Acadia Mountain parking lot.
Because this is a loop trail, the hiking distance is the same whether you take the Island Explorer’s Southwest Harbor line or not. Be aware that there are limited trips on this line after August 31. While Acadia Mountain isn’t listed on the Island Explorer map as an official stop, there is an Acadia Mountain bus stop sign just north of Echo Lake, on the east side of ME 102.
Beech to Mansell to Bernard – Made up of 2 separate loops, this 6.5-mile route takes you up the only Acadia peak with a fire tower on it, and over Western Mountain’s twin peaks, of Mansell and Bernard.
From the Long Pond parking area at the end of Long Pond Road in Southwest Harbor, smack in the middle of the 2 loops for this route, it’s hiker’s choice: Best views first? Do the eastern loop up Beech Mountain. Best views last? Then do the western loop up the wooded summits of Mansell and Bernard Mountains first.
To access the eastern loop up Beech, take the Valley Trail away from Long Pond, heading south-southeast from the parking lot. Follow the Valley Trail as it crosses a couple of private drives, then turn left up the Beech South Ridge Trail, to the 839-foot Beech Mountain summit. At certain times of the year, the fire tower may be open to the top landing, during an open house.
Descend the summit the same way you came up, but instead of following Beech South Ridge all the way down, bear right to loop down the shorter but steeper Beech West Ridge Trail back to the shore of Long Pond.
Cross the parking lot and head behind the pumping station, following the Long Pond Trail to the Perpendicular Trail. Turn left (west) to head up Mansell Mountain on the Perpendicular Trail. Take in the view near the top before heading to the 949-foot wooded summit of Mansell.
Continue on the ridge toward Great Notch and Bernard Mountain, and don’t mistakenly descend the Mansell Mountain, Razorback or Great Notch Trails. Take a rest at one of the benches in the Great Notch, then climb up Knight Nubble, down Little Notch and up 1071-foot Bernard.
Retrace your steps back to Little Notch, and turn right (southeast) down the Sluiceway Trail. At the next junction, bear left onto a spur to hook up with the Great Notch Trail. Turn right (southeast) on the Great Notch Trail, which joins with the Gilley Trail.
Take the Gilley Trail across Gilley Field to the Cold Brook Trail, following that all the way back to Long Pond. Turn right to return to the Long Pond parking area.
Just 52 more miles to finish the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek
Bonnie Jean, as described here, the Grand Tour of Acadia Peaks takes 7 days and nearly 48 miles. Not quite enough to finish the 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, but a grand tour nonetheless, and certainly worthy of an Acadia Centennial Trek Medal to help raise funds for the park!
And if you find you have the time and the energy, it’s easy enough to add another 52 miles by climbing one of the many other trails that take you along Acadia’s peaks or along the rugged coast, or by heading to Schoodic or Isle au Haut and climbing the summits there.
Thanks again, Bonnie Jean, for the question. It gave us another reason to keep Acadia on our mind, and to dream up other combinations of peaks and hikes.